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By Lauren B. Romberger, PA-C

Birth control has been around for centuries – whether it be natural family planning, homeopathic methods or more recently, the birth control pill.  Many women and families prefer a way to avoid pregnancy using a method that is not invasive (such as an intrauterine device or implant), while others prefer a method with minimal to no side effects.

Natural family planning is an option many women prefer.  It is a way to help prevent pregnancy by recognizing signs and symptoms that occur during the fertile days of your menstrual cycle. This method of fertility awareness can include tracking periods, checking cervical mucus and measuring your basal body temperature, or the lowest body temperature attained during rest.  Monitoring these factors can help you and your partner determine when you are fertile so that you can abstain from intercourse during that time to avoid pregnancy.

If you desire natural family planning as your form of contraception, you can now turn to your phone. A variety of smartphone apps are now available to help you track your period in order to know when they can safely have unprotected sex with your partner and prevent pregnancy.

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How the Natural Family Planning Apps Work

These new family planning apps allow you to track your natural cycle by checking your basal body temperature to determine which days you are fertile or infertile, or by tracking your period to determine when you are ovulating. These calculations help you determine which days are the best days to have sex based upon your al to either conceive or avoid pregnancy.

If you only want an app to help manage your periods, these apps give you that power and capability. If you truly desire to have a natural family plan, there really haven’t been too many apps that aid natural birth control – until now.

The benefits of natural family planning apps include:

  • They are non-invasive.
  • They have zero side effects.
  • They are relatively simple to use- women can get rid of paper calendars, calculations, and reduce human error.

Important Note on Effectiveness of Family Planning Apps

It’s very important to note while natural family planning apps can be useful in tracking menstrual cycles, they are not as effective as other forms of birth control in preventing pregnancies. For example, if the pill is used regularly and perfectly, it is effective at a rate of 99.7 percent. This percentage drops to 92 percent with the irregular use that is commonly found. A natural family planning app was recently found to have a 93 percent effectiveness rate when used regularly and perfectly, but just like other birth control methods, this percentage drops with irregular use.

Also, an app cannot protect from sexually transmitted infections (STIs). So when using an app, it is still wise to use a condom, as no app can protect from STIs. And of course, the only guaranteed way to avoid contracting an STI is to abstain from intercourse.

Finding the Right Natural Family Planning App

Before choosing an app that works for you, there are a number of things that you should consider first.

  • Make sure the app is reputable- you can check with your Ob-gyn for any recommendations.
  • Find out what information the app requires, such as basal body temperature, period tracking, etc.
  • If the app requires you to track your basal body temperature, you’ll need to purchase a special thermometer.
  • Take into account the limitations of the app, such as the effectiveness of preventing pregnancy based upon the user’s consistency of entering the required information to help track fertility
  • Consider the cost of the app, some are free, but others charge a fee.

Family planning is a personal choice that requires thoughtful consideration. Make sure you do thorough research before acquiring an app or any form of birth control and do what is best for yourself and your family.

For more information about birth control options including natural family planning, talk to your Ob-gyn.

About UPMC Harrisburg

UPMC Harrisburg is a nationally recognized leader in providing high-quality, patient-centered health care services in south central PA. and surrounding rural communities. UPMC Harrisburg includes seven acute care hospitals and over 160 outpatient clinics and ancillary facilities serving Dauphin, Cumberland, Perry, York, Lancaster, Lebanon, Juniata, Franklin, Adams, and parts of Snyder counties. These locations care for more than 1.2 million area residents yearly, providing life-saving emergency care, essential primary care, and leading-edge diagnostic services. Its cardiovascular program is nationally recognized for its innovation and quality. It also leads the region with its cancer, neurology, transplant, obstetrics-gynecology, maternity care, and orthopaedic programs.

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